Hyundai Motorsport returns to tarmac on the tight, twisty roads of the island of Corsica this weekend for the fourth round of the 2019 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), and with the aim to win back ground in the manufacturers' challenge after a lacklustre result in Rally Mexico.
The iconic Tour de Corse rally on the picturesque island of Corsica sees WRC crews tackle some of the most technically demanding, narrow and winding stages of the season, underscoring the event's nickname "Rally of 10 000 Corners".
Hyundai Motorsport will field a trio of tarmac specialists for Tour de Corse. All three crews have previously been victorious on Corsica with seven wins between them. Belgians Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul took the honours for Hyundai Motorsport in 2017, in addition to an Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC) win in 2011.
Joining them as part of the Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team line-up in this year's event will be Dani Sordo/Carlos del Barrio and Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena. The Spanish crew took an IRC triumph in 2012 while Loeb scored four consecutive wins from 2005 to 2008.
Following a difficult Rally Mexico, Hyundai Motorsport will be looking to bounce back quickly at Tour de Corse. Due to a heavily revised route, 80% of the special stages will be new this year. The rally tours from Porto-Vecchio in the southeast of the island on an anti-clockwise trajectory through Bastia, where the Service Park is located, and ends coming Sunday at Calvi in the northeast.
All three crews have tested the Hyundai i20 Coupé WRC on tarmac in preparation for the event. "We remain in an upbeat and positive frame of mind heading to Corsica," said team director Andrea Adamo.
"The start of the season may not have delivered the results we are here to fight for, but there have been positives that give us cause for optimism. Our Hyundai i20 Coupé WRC is now ready to take on an entirely different challenge on the roads of Corsica. As a team, tarmac performance was an area on which we focused considerably last season, with improvements throughout the season."
Crew Notes - Neuville/Gilsoul:
Neuville, whose fourth place in Mexico dropped him to third in the drivers' championship, said: "Corsica is a very nice event and I have great memories from previous years. I have won there twice, once in IRC and then again with Hyundai Motorsport in WRC two years ago.
"It's a challenging event, with lots of corners, but a rally that I enjoy. As our first event of the season on tarmac and following the less-than straightforward weekend in Mexico, I hope we can get things back on track."
Crew Notes - Sordo/Del Barrio:
Sordo said: "The first tarmac rally of the season, Corsica is a rally where I really feel comfortable and competitive. The stages are really nice, set against a postcard backdrop, but incredibly demanding too.
"Long stages and loops can make tyre selection and management quite tricky. The stages themselves put pressure on the car and crew with tight, twisty corners that require maximum attention and focus. Carlos and I won Tour de Corse in IRC back in 2072, while I also finished on the podium a few years ago with Hyundai Motorsport. I hope our past success and experience, together with the performance of our i20 Coupe WRC, can help us fight for a good result this year."
Crew Notes - Loeb/Elena:
Frenchman and four-times Tour de Corse winner Loeb said: "Corsica is a beautiful event, with stunning landscape close to the sea, and magnificent island setting. It's a wonderful place for rallying and as the French round of the championship it is a very special atmosphere for me.
"An extremely technical rally, there are many different types of road with some bumpy places and some fast sections. In fact, it seems to get faster each year. Not an easy one, but fun!"
The Tour de Corse comprises 14 competitive special stages over 3 days. Following a shakedown and ceremonial start at Porto-Vecchio on Thursday, the region kick-starts the competition on Friday morning with an initial loop of Bavella (17,6 km), Valinco (25,9 km) and Alta-Rocco (17, 4 km). Crews will not have the luxury of a lunchtime service on Friday, moving onto a repeat loop in the afternoon.
Saturday's stages in the Bastia region make up more than half of the total rally distance with the loop consisting of Cap Corse (25,6 km), Desert des Agriates (14,5 km) and the very long Castagniccia (47,20 km) stages.
The final morning moves northwest for an early challenge through Eaux de Zilia (31,9 km) and the single Power Stage run at Calvi (19,3 km).